City of Brandon officials are anxious to get started on a multimillion-dollar airport expansion project, but are still waiting to hear if they can secure government funding.
It has been nearly two months since the city submitted its application for the New Building Canada Fund.
“Right now we’re in a bit of a holding pattern as we await … the final word, but we’re still very hopeful, very positive,” city manager Scott Hildebrand said.
The federal government’s $14-billion New Building Canada Fund began taking applications on March 31. Brandon hopes to tap into the $10-billion provincial-territorial infrastructure component, which includes $1 billion set aside in the Small Communities Fund for local projects in communities with fewer than 100,000 residents.
The city submitted its application through the Province of Manitoba, as it is Premier Greg Selinger that will need to raise this project as a priority to the federal government.
Sally Housser, a provincial spokesperson, said the province received an updated business plan from the City of Brandon this week, after asking for some clarification.
“The project is still being reviewed, but as the premier has previously expressed, the province believes the project has merit,” Housser said.
Selinger committed verbally to the project when he was in Brandon last March.
“We believe the airport upgrade … is one of the projects we could fund together under the (New) Building Canada Fund," Selinger said at the time. “We’re very positive about that project. If (Brandon-Souris Conservative MP) Larry Maguire and the federal government wants to do it, we’ll partner with them on it and get it done.”
The major $8.8-million overhaul would see the McGill Field airport terminal building expanded to three times its current size, in order to better accommodate daily air service currently provided by WestJet, and potentially attract service growth.
Included in the plans are a dedicated check-in area, spacious boarding lounge, additional space for security screening, separate arrivals area, new baggage carousel and improved network connectivity via fibre optic installation.
Maguire said the project remains a priority, and has been sure to keep the topic afloat in Ottawa while he waits for the province to submit its priorities.
“I’ve been pushing to get that as much as we can on the go,” he said.
Maguire brought Peter Braid, the parliamentary secretary for infrastructure and communities, on a tour of Brandon Municipal Airport in March, and says he has spoken with federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel on the topic of Brandon’s airport. Just this week, Maguire gave Minister of State Michelle Rempel a tour of the airport to show the logistics and the tight spaces.
“Each time I bring a person in like that, I make them very aware of it,” Maguire said.
“I look forward to whatever the province and the city bring forward.”
The city has received positive feedback from both the provincial and federal level, according to Hildebrand.
“We’re just waiting for the green light because we would really like to get this project started this fall, and the farther we go into the summer, the more unlikely that will become,” he said.
Hildebrand remains optimistic that the city will be able to make the project a reality this year.
“I think it would be a great thing for the city and there’s other opportunities that may come … not only passenger service but cargo, all sorts of things, so we’re trying to work every possible angle to make this opportunity successful.”
» Twitter: @jillianaustin
Survey says . . .
The Brandon Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey earlier this year, asking chamber members about their Brandon air service experience. A total of 101 people responded. Here is a summary of the results:
• Seventy-nine per cent of respondents believed that the flights from Brandon provided good or excellent value for their money.
• The check-in area received the lowest marks in service with 70 per cent of respondents giving it an average or poor rating.
• The lobby/waiting area also received poor marks, with nearly 60 per cent of respondents giving it a poor rating.
• Parking was viewed as a very favourable (92 per cent) attribute.
• Of the survey respondents, 75 per cent were using Calgary as a connecting point to fly out to alternative destinations.
• Of the 39 respondents who used this connector flight, they continued on to 31 different destinations.
• 42.6 per cent of respondents had taken one to two flights out of Brandon, 33.4 per cent had not yet taken a flight, while 22.3 per cent had taken three to nine flights.
» Brandon Chamber of Commerce